Make Art Jewelry Out of Anything: Techniques for Using Plastic, Concrete, and More in Your Jewelry Designs

Based on the cover and the title, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Jewelry-Making Techniques was about. I felt like I knew what the jewelry inside probably looked like, what the how-tos and instructional pieces most likely covered, and what the materials lists most likely included. I knew exactly what I was going to write about it, too–until I opened it!

Well, you know what they say about judging a book by its cover! Boy, was I wrong. And I'm so glad I was, because what I found inside Vannetta Seecharran's Encyclopedia of Contemporary Jewelry-Making Techniques was much more fun and unique than I imagined–and literally full of surprises.


Surprising Jewelry-Making Materials
My first surprise was just inside the front cover, in the form of a colorful necklace made from the dotty plastic ties exactly like the ones I'd just cut off my new doormat. Nearly every page turned revealed another surprising use of recycled or repurposed materials: rubber glove fingertips, shoe and belt buckles, plastic anything, old rubber bands, paper and paper pulp, Formica and concrete–plus old favorites like ribbon and yarn, scraps of fabric, wood, and of course metals.


Surprising Jewelry-Making Techniques
The biggest surprises in The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Jewelry-Making Techniques are the techniques themselves. In addition to standard metalsmithing and jewelry-making techniques such as soldering and sawing, polishing and wrapping, stringing and cold connections, Seecharran shares step-by-step how-tos for working with all those unusual found and repurposed materials. Crossover crafters, rejoice! You'll learn to incorporate unique materials in your jewelry designs through stitching, heat forming, weaving, and laminating; you'll even learn papermaking, screen printing, vacuum forming, plastic dyeing, flocking, skiving, overlay and inlay, mold making, and casting.

Crushed Gemstone and Silver Ring
by Kelvin J. Birk

I can't think of a thing you could use in jewelry making that you can't learn how to use wisely through the techniques illustrated in this book. For each category of unique materials, Seecharran shares information about designing with it, including its qualities, notes about its application, tips and suggestions for combining it with other materials, and a list of other jewelry artists who work with it to check out for inspiration.

Art-Quality Plastic Jewelry
The plastic jewelry designs and techniques in Seecharran's The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Jewelry-Making Techniques were the most intriguing to me; I love the idea of taking something that's so cheap (or free) and plentiful–and something that desperately needs to be recycled–and using it to make gorgeous artisan-quality (or just super fun) jewelry. Here are a few great tips about jewelry making with plastic and other unusual materials.

Did you know . . .

  • When gluing two flat layers of plastic or acrylic together (called "laminating"), slide one on top of the other from the side (rather than laying it down on top of the other) to prevent air bubbles.
  • If your blade gets stuck while sawing plastic, use a flame to warm the blade above the plastic, which will help the blade slide through, hot-knife-through-cold-butter style.
  • When sanding small items with sandpaper, place the sandpaper on a flat surface and sand the item on it in a circular motion. I never seem to remember this one, and I end up scraping my fingertips with sandpaper while trying to hold the item still and sand off with the paper, instead of keeping the paper still and moving the item across it.
  • Speaking of sanding, after you've sanded with your finest-grit sandpaper, you can slip your hand into a nylon stocking (or use another fabric with a slightly coarse texture) and polish further with your hand, creating a smooth matte surface.
  • When joining plastics together with liquid solvents, use fine-grade sandpaper to lightly sand the surfaces that will be joined together. This is called "keying" and gives the solvent more grip and surface area to create a more secure bond between the two plastics.

Mixed-media jewelry makers (and artists), crossover crafters, and anyone who likes working with found objects and recycled materials, trust me: you'll love this book. Grab your new favorite go-to jewelry-making resource, The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Jewelry-Making Techniques!

Could you believe it, a trendy, artistic-looking necklace made out of plastic ties? What's the craziest thing you've ever used to make jewelry? Please share in the comments below!

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